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How passion and commitment motivate a marathon swimmer

This is an excerpt from Open Water Swimming by Steven Munatones.

Why Swim a Marathon?

In the sport of marathon swimming, in which extreme distances, extreme temperatures, and extreme conditions (large ocean swells, strong currents, and marine life) are expected, individuals come from all walks of life. Their physical abilities to push themselves hour after hour are augmented by their tremendous mental focus and strength of character.

Marathon swimmers are generally an introspective group with plenty of opportunities to reflect upon their motivations while swimming. Some swim to achieve a personal goal. Others strive to set records or to gain some level of fame. Some raise money for charity. Others endeavor to promote a cause. But they all have an unwavering passion to achieve their goal.

Deeply Held Passion

Without passion, a marathon swimmer cannot do the training necessary for success. They genuinely enjoy their time in the water and the challenges they inevitably face.

Training can be harsh and is always conducted without fanfare. Swimmers face the solitary walk to the shoreline, countless hours swimming alone, and shivering and muscle soreness afterward. Their ability to persevere is what defines them at their very core. They possess the uncommon ability to focus on the positive, ignore the discomforts they face, and readily accept sacrifices.

Passion helps push marathon swimmers past the pain, boredom, and difficulties. The immense joy and satisfaction of touching the ground and finishing by walking—or crawling—onto shore is a feeling they cherish for the rest of their lives.

Uncommon Commitment

The commitment shown by marathon swimmers takes many forms: physical, emotional, financial, and logistical. Physical endurance and strength of character are not enough. The financial means to support one's passion and the ability to assemble a knowledgeable support team cannot be underestimated.

The physical commitment has to do with the requirement to swim for hours. This commitment frequently requires the adjustment of work schedules, family obligations, nutritional habits, and sleep schedules.

The emotional commitment speaks to the marathon's swimmers sustained mental focus over time. Fatigue, boredom, nervousness, and discomfort are significantly more powerful forces in the open water than on land. When the conditions in the open water become difficult, it is tempting to stop, get out of the water, and look forward to another day. Marathon swimmers understand that the strength of their mental efforts and their control over their emotions enable their bodies to follow.

The financial commitment to marathon swimming is high because escort boats, support crews, hotel stays, meals, and travel must be arranged. The total cost, including a qualifying swim, travel for the swim itself, governing body fees, food, training time, and equipment, can easily run over $10,000 depending on the location of the swim.

The logistical commitment includes arranging for an escort pilot and support team. It also includes organizing all the travel, feeding, and equipment as well as completing documentation, visas and medical release forms in a timely manner. Pre-swim promotions, interviews, and a post-swim party or follow-up with one's chosen charity are just a few of the details swimmers manage before and after their marathon swim.

More Excerpts From Open Water Swimming